Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sisters - A special bond.....

and sometimes a source of inspiration

I was sitting on a beach in Greece, when I had the 'Eureka' moment. Of course - they HAVE to be sisters! But, before I explain what I’m talking about, you need some background about my sister and me.

We are very different people. Janis is older by nearly five years and has enjoyed a long and successful career in personnel (these days I should probably call it human resources). Of the two of us, Jan was and is far more outward going, social and talkative, and, it has to be said, bossy. But I was a shy kid and was often lost for words when grown-ups talked to me. If I stayed silent, my big sister would butt in and answer for me.  I liked that.  It saved me the embarrassment of having to try to explain myself. It also saved me the bother.

I am creative.  My first jobs were fill-ins until I landed a position as junior illustrator, in an advertising design studio. I worked in that area of art for about ten years but then, when my son was little, I turned my hand to writing and quickly had two novels published. Ever since, although I’ve continued to write, real success has eluded me, and I’ve essentially been a stay-at-home mum.    As an adult I am more of a loner than my sister, more quiet, inward-looking, a bit indecisive and I can be stubborn.  But when I reflect on my nature, I perceive a duality.  I still lack self-confidence, and yet....  there’s an unassailable core of self-belief in me - or maybe it’s just misguided optimism - that one day, I will be successful.

A few years ago we were on holiday as a foursome - my husband and I, with Jan, and her partner, Roger. The resort we’d chosen was mainland Afissos, on the eastern side of the Greek Pelion peninsular, on the Pagasetic Gulf. Jan & Roger are seasoned Greek travellers; over the years they’d spent very many extended holidays there, mainly island-hopping. They’d been to Afissos before, had really loved it and wanted to show us the quiet, largely unspoilt resort, which was still redolent of the old Greece. It had apartments and a few modest hotels but - although Greeks holidayed there - the small, harbour side village was not yet fully geared up for the hordes from other parts of Europe.

We were in separate, modern but small, apartment blocks.  They were called self-catering - but not a lot of self-catering went on. After a long hard day on the beach, we’d return home to shower and change, and then Jan and Rog would walk from their block to ours bringing lemons which had dropped ripe and luscious from the many trees en route. And we’d sit up on our balcony drinking duty free gin and tonic.  Several lemony gins later we’d wend our way to the sea front, debating... “Now, which taverna shall we eat in tonight?”

I didn’t have TORN - the book I was currently writing - with me on holiday. I say “writing”, but it’s more precise to say I was going through the long and dispiriting process of showing it to literary agents, receiving their rejections, RE-writing it, and sending it out again.  But I was also attempting to cultivate the seed of an idea for my next book.  It was refusing to germinate.  Pretty much all I had was the title - LIFE CLASS.  I had attended life drawing classes for very many years. There was a changing group of students, as well as a changing cast of tutors.  There had to be a story in there somewhere, I reasoned, but I had only got as far as a rudimentary decision about my characters. There would be four - two men, two women.  But “Who are these people?” I kept asking myself.

Now, back to our favourite beach.... It was a fifteen minute walk outside Afissos, so it didn’t get crowded. And very importantly, as far as we were concerned, this beach had a wooden kiosk on the more solid ground at the back - built and run by an entrepreneurial English woman and her Greek husband - where we could get drinks and snacks.

I don’t recall precisely what Jan and I were talking about that day. She was probably being a bit officious and annoying, and “big sistery”.  I was probably being intransigent and mulish, because I hate being told what to do - even if the person doing the telling is patently right.  So, there we were, sitting in the sun, digging our toes into the gazillions of tiny, different coloured shells and pebbles that made up the beach, and having a not very serious - and almost certainly pointless - argument, when I suddenly had the brainwave. The two major female characters in LIFE CLASS had to be sisters!

We do also have a baby brother, Laurence (pictured here).
Sisters don’t always get on, of course, but the bond between them can be so much deeper, more complex and long-standing than mere friends. And I had a wealth of experience to draw on. No need for research.  I know my sister well; I know myself.  All I needed was the big cocktail shaker of my imagination to mix us up a bit. And so, Dory, the career woman, and Fran, the arty stay-at-home mum, were born.  As for their adventures?  There may be some real experience in the ingredients of the cocktail, but...  I’m a writer, aren’t I?  It’s (almost) all made up!

NB When I came to look for a picture of just my sister and me, in Afissos, there were none. Not even one which I could edit. I then, looked through a few albums, before and after that time. The only one I was able to find is the one above, taken during the winter following that holiday.